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Posted on Oct 19 2021 by Fiona Bailey

There are changes set to be made for patients with Learning Disabilities (LD) and people on the autistic spectrum at one of the country’s largest mental health providers in a bid to improve their health outcomes.

St Andrew’s Healthcare, which is based in Northampton and has sites in Essex, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Birmingham, has laid out its plans for the long-term future, regarding its services for patients with LD and those who are on the autistic spectrum.

At the moment patients with LD and people on the autistic spectrum are only admitted to St Andrew’s if they have complex mental health needs as well. But, going forward, St Andrew’s will no longer admit people who have LD and autism who do not have a forensic background.  

Key stakeholders of the charity have made the decision because they believe providing treatment for people in the community, closer to their friends and family will significantly impact their health in a positive way. This move follows on from the sale of Mansfield hospital which was sold last year, reducing the number of people on the autistic spectrum or with LD who were in their care.

Dr Sanjith Kamath, Executive Medical Director, said: “It’s no longer acceptable for patients to be treated in hospitals hundreds of miles away from their homes, which in a lot of cases means they don’t have regular visits from their friends and family. These visits from their loved ones can be a vital part of their recovery pathway.

“That’s why we’re backing our NHS colleagues and aligning even more closely with the Transforming Care Agenda which is all about choosing homes not hospitals for patients and providing care for individuals in the community.

“We’re excited about introducing this approach which we’ve been unable to do previously because the community infrastructure to support these people hasn’t really been available at the scale needed in all areas. But we’re committed to helping our patients in this meaningful and constructive way and we’re therefore pledging to develop community settings which will help support people with LD and those on the autistic spectrum, ensuring they have access to the care they need out of hospital.”

St Andrew’s staff are now working on creating a robust out-of-secure care pathway that they plan to roll out. This will mean eventually patients, who have received treatment at the charity hospital for a substantial time because of factors other than their forensic risk, can be supported to move back into the community.

Dr Paul Stankard, Clinical Director for LD and autistic spectrum services at the hospital, said: “People with a learning disability and those who are on the autistic spectrum have the right to live satisfying and valued lives just like anybody else. At the moment the health sector relies too heavily on inpatient care for children, young people and adults who have these conditions associated with behaviour that challenges, including those with a mental health condition.

“St Andrew’s is changing its approach so we can better support our patients, helping them to live safely and happily within a community setting. By refocussing our attention it also means we align further with national policy and lead on good practice alongside our NHS colleagues.”  

Paul Burstow, Chair of the St Andrew’s Board, said: “Delivering the best possible patient outcomes is at the heart of what we do as a charity. People on the autistic spectrum or who have a learning disability, including those with a mental health condition, have the right to the same opportunities as anyone else. As a charity we want to help these people live safely and happily in community settings so they can live a healthy and fulfilling life

“The Board is determined that the charity will play a full part in enhancing community capacity, reducing inappropriate hospital admissions and cutting the length of stay in hospital.”